24/10/2016 14:26 BST | Updated 24/10/2016 15:59 BST

Egypt Child Marriage: Cousins Aged 11 And 12 Become Engaged

There is 'nothing inappropriate' about the arrangement

A father has defended his decision to announce the engagement of his 12-year-old son to his 11-year-old cousin.

News of Omar and Gharam’s betrothal was accompanied by photographs of the pair looking considerably older than their tender years, with Gharam sporting a tiara and sparkling bodice.

Despite 18 being the legal marriage age in Egypt, Omar’s father Nasser Hassan reportedly told the Al Watan newspaper there was “nothing inappropriate” about the arrangement, stressing it was only “an engagement, not a marriage.”

Family photo via Masrawy
The engagement of Omar, 12 and his cousin Gharam, 11, was announced by Omar's father Nasser Hassan 

The news prompted Reda Eldanbouki, the head of the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, to report the incident to the government, the Washington Post reports.

He has also filed a complaint with the attorney general to investigate the matter and hold the parents to account.

The engagement, he claims, “will only lead to an early marriage in which the girl will be deprived of equal chances to education, growth and will isolate her from social spheres.”

Family photo via Masrawy
The children will be married when they reach the legal age of 18, Hassan says 

Omar’s father however has brushed off any criticism, adding: “Omar has always loved Gharam so much that he used to say he will marry her when they grow up, before any other man asks for her hand in marriage when she is older.

“They will get married when they reach the legal age.”

Despite the law, last year Egypt’s Minister of Population Hala Youssef revealed that 15 per cent of all marriages in the country are child marriages.

And according to a study published by the National Council for Women in 2013, 22 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18.

According to Girls Not Brides, while the rate of child marriage in Egypt is declining, religious and traditional ideals and customs have hindered this progress.

It adds child marriage mainly affects girls living in poorer rural areas and is on the rise in some locations, including Upper Egypt.